Supporting Early Reading
Question: My child is not quite ready to read but making strides there. What can I do to foster that learning curve?
Thank you for asking this question! Our family has a deep love of reading, and I’m happy to share some tips to cultivate your child’s interest in beginning to read. The most essential thing I can share, may be surprising. To help kids learn to read we have to support their love of reading.Here are a few ways to do that:
- Read together every day.
- Chat with your little one a lot, and use words that expand your child’s vocabulary.
- Keep books accessible to them, front facing, so that they can settle in with a good book whenever they please. Even pre-readers can enjoy “reading” the pictures.
- Make that reading nook cozy.
- Make sure they see other family members reading books and magazines, not from phones or tablets, regularly.
Learning to read is a complex and multifaceted process. While loving reading is the most essential part of becoming a reader, there are of course several skills that have to be mastered in order to be able to read. Without knowing your child’s age and where they are in the process, it will be hard to give specific suggestions. I hope, however, that this excerpt from one of our many learning guides will be helpful. It outlines an important early reading skill and some fun ways you can work with it at home.
When to start?
My mentor teacher once told me “It doesn’t matter when a child learns to read, but it does matter how.” Each person has their own unique course for learning. Your child will at some point enter a sensitive period for learning about letters and sounds, and you’ll have this information ready to support them in their work.
How will you know when your child is ready to dive in? Your child’s interest is the gauge for when they are ready. When they are showing an interest in letters and sounds, that is a great time to sprinkle some of this early reading work into your play. If you are met with delight when you begin introducing the letters you are on the right track. If your child is spacing out, asking to do other things, or simply refusing the invitation it’s time to step back. We want our little ones to learn to read, but even more so we want them to have a lifelong love of learning and a positive view of themselves as a joyful and capable learner.
Matching Sound and Symbol
It may surprise you to know that in Montessori classrooms we are not excited about children learning the names of the letters. Learning the names of the letters is not particularly helpful for children at this stage. While the ABC song can be fun, and there is no harm in learning it, it does very little to help your child towards learning readiness. What does help is giving them opportunities to associate the sounds of the letters with the symbol of the letters.
If your child hasn’t done much matching work, you may want to first do a bit of exact matching. You can learn about that here.
It will perhaps take a little rewiring for adults, but there are simple ways to help your child learn the sounds of the letters. One practice is to replace naming the letters with making the letter sound. When you point to B, for example, don’t say the name of the letter, just make a “b” sound. Always refer to the letters by their sounds. “This says b”
Letter of the Day
If, and only if, your child is loving letters, you can increase their work with letters by introducing a letter of the day. Pick a place your child sees every day to be the “letter spot.”
If you have blocks or puzzle pieces that have the letter on them, place one of them in that place for them to find that morning, with the letter of the day facing your child. If you don’t have something that will work, you can request these kinds of toys in your kits!
When your child sees that letter- say the sound. If it is S, you’ll say “Sssssss. This says ssssssss”. Have fun incorporating the letter and sound into your day. Draw it in the sand, make the letter out of sticks or write it on coloring pages. As your child gets familiar with the letter you can write it in different places for them to find throughout the day. Remember, for now, to make the letters you write look exactly like the one you first introduced.